Chapter One

By Twinheart

Summary: AU. Snape-mentors-Harry fic. When Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts, Snape is forced to reexamine his initial impressions. (Warnings: implications of child neglect/abuse, manipulative/Dumbledore, sedition. Not Canon.)

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. I make no money from this. The characters belong to J. K. Rowling. I only borrow them for a brief while.

Author's note: Words in italics indicate thoughts. Words in quotations indicate spoken dialogue.


Professor Severus Snape toyed absently with his goblet and ignored the first-years as they filed in. He already knew what he would see: the bobbing procession of eleven-year-old faces gawking at the ceiling and the House tables, their eyes filled with wonder and trepidation. It was the same every year.

This year, there were two faces amongst the throng of nervous children that Snape knew would claim his attention soon enough – one face was familiar; one infamous. But he brushed aside his curiosity for the moment, to study the DADA teacher at his side.

"Are you well this evening, Professor Quirrell?" Snape's tone was more mocking than solicitous.

"W-w-what? I...I'm quite w-well, thank you!" Quirrell stuttered, clearly startled by the Potion Master's inquiry.

"You seem a bit. . .anxious."

"N-no, no! Just. . .well...the s-start of a new t-term is always exhilarating, don't you think?" the man's right eye twitched spastically.

"Hrumphh," Snape's response was dubious.

Snape had always detested Quirrell. The stammering, bumbling fool was nearly as incompetent as that flakey fraud, Trelawney. Snape took perverse pleasure in intimidating the bashful man as often as possible. But something about Quirrell had changed over the summer. . .something Snape couldn't quite pin down. He only knew the man felt different. There was an unfamiliar aura about the DADA teacher – covert and dark, as if he were concealing secrets behind that mild, vapid smile. Once or twice, Snape had thought he glimpsed a flicker of cunning in the man's befuddled eyes.

He couldn't imagine that the ineffectual idiot presented any kind of danger, but Quirrell's altered bearing made the Potion Master's well-honed senses tingle with vague menace. Snape knew better than to ignore his faint suspicions. He had not survived his regrettable service to the Dark Lord by accident. . .he had learned to heed his instincts. Quirrell would bear watching, he decided. . .very close watching.

Quirrell's attention was now on the Sorting Ceremony just commencing, and Snape followed the DADA teacher's gaze as the first new child – an agitated girl with frizzy hair – was sorted into Gryffindor. Minerva McGonagall called out the next name.

"Malfoy, Draco."

Snape watched the boy's delicate face as the Sorting Hat loudly proclaimed "SLYTHERIN!" almost before touching Draco's head.

Well, that's no surprise, Snape thought, giving his godson a terse nod of approval as the lad jumped off the stool and sauntered to the Slytherin table. So like his father. Too pretty for his own good, and far too confident. The cock-sure tilt of the chin and that proud swagger. . .so reminiscent of Lucius.

But there was more to Draco than swagger. The boy was not just a miniature copy of his father, despite his airs. Snape had been a frequent guest at Malfoy Manor during Draco's childhood, and he had made a point of forming a close relationship with his godson. He knew there was a sharp mind behind that attractive, arrogant face and Snape was determined to draw it out. He looked forward to guiding and molding the boy. As Head of Slytherin House, he would have the opportunity to influence his godson more that ever before, and he hoped to undo at least some of the damage Lucius had done to Draco's character. Perhaps he could keep the son from making the same mistakes as the father.

Snape's thoughts were so focused on Draco he almost missed the name when Minerva called it out.

"Potter, Harry."

A ripple of curiosity and anticipation swept over the students. Even the staff at the Head table tensed, staring attentively at the huddle of children at the foot of the dais. There was a minor shuffle in the middle of the group, then a boy stepped forward amid a wave of hissing whispers.

Snape was surprised. He didn't know what he had expected, really – but certainly not this. . . this scrawny, hesitant child. Potter was shorter and skinnier than most of the other first-years. He seemed hardly big enough to clamber onto the stool. Snape got a quick impression of untidy black hair and round glasses too large for the pale oval face. . .then the boy sat, his back to the Staff table, bony shoulders slumped in apprehension. His thin arms were rigid and his small hands gripped the seat so hard his knuckles were white.

Snape leaned forward curiously to peer at the boy's profile. Potter's eyes were squeezed shut in fierce concentration, and his lips moved, as if he were silently chanting. A long, hushed pause heightened the air of suspense in the Hall.

What is taking so long? What is that bloody Hat doing? Snape found himself holding his breath.

Finally the annoying, pompous voice cried out, "GRIFFYNDOR!"

Snape told himself he was neither surprised nor disappointed. Certainly, any Head of House would have welcomed the prestige of claiming the Boy-Who-Lived. . .but this was James Potter's son, after all. Of course he'd be a bloody Gryffindor - just like his bloody father.

He watched the child scramble down from the stool and hasten over to the Gryffindor table to be greeted by his new housemates with entirely too much enthusiasm. Snape observed Minerva's tight smile of proud delight and snorted softly in disgust. So now it begins, he thought snidely. Five minutes in the school and the brat's already being treated like a celebrity. He glimpsed the boy's happy, eager face through the crowd of students and grimaced with distaste. Frightful hair. . .bad eyesight. . .ego the size of Greater London – a true Potter for certain!

For the remainder of the Sorting, Snape glowered at his empty plate, silently censuring the Potter child in his mind. Enjoy your popularity while you can, Potter. You'll find your fame will not sway me. Let the others spoil and coddle you – your arrogance won't profit you in my classes, I promise you. It will give me great pleasure to knock you down a peg or two. When I'm done with you, you won't dare shift a toe out of line. I'll eradicate that Potter smugness once and for all.

Dumbledore rambled through his annual greeting and began the feast. The first-years reacted with the usual wonderment and delight at the sudden appearance of food-laden trays. Snape helped himself to a tender filet of whitefish and some fresh greens, then glanced over at the Potter boy.

Good grief, what's the matter with the child? You'd think he'd never seen food before!

Potter was gaping wide-eyed at the heaping platters before him. His mouth was open, slack-jawed, as if he were in shock. As the other students helped themselves with the eager abandon of hungry children, Potter just stared at the food. His dark brows were wrinkled in disbelief and uncertainty.

Stupid boy! Does he think the food is poisoned? Or is the fare not good enough for the Boy-Who-Lived? Snape snarled inwardly. No doubt the brat is used to gourmet meals at home. I suppose school food is too plebian for the likes of Harry-bloody-Potter!

Glancing around at his housemates, Potter finally – hesitantly – served himself, piling his plate with samples of every food in sight.

Deplorable manners, Snape noted spitefully, as the boy began hastily shoveling food into his mouth as if afraid it would disappear again.

Determined not to spoil his own dinner with further thoughts of the Boy-Who-Lived, Snape ignored the Gryffindor table until after his pudding and a much needed cup of tea. Out of misguided politeness, Quirrell made a few stuttering attempts at conversation, which Snape pointedly ignored. But when the DADA teacher asked him to pass the sugar, Snape sighed and reluctantly turned to hand the bowl to him. As he did, his glance happened to fall on the Gryffindor table once again. The Potter boy was looking his way – in fact, he appeared to be peering directly at the Potions Master. He spoke to the older Weasley boy, then stared at Snape again. It was the first clear view Snape had gotten of the boy's face.

Messy hair – glasses – stubborn set to a firm jaw – vague, crooked little smile. . .James Potter all over, Snape thought irritably. Then he looked past the glasses into vivid green eyes.

Snape frowned. The room went silent around him. . . everything faded away except the green eyes gazing back at him. The boy's brows tilted in distress and a small hand rose to rub fitfully at the scar hidden behind dark bangs, but still the eyes held his. Snape swallowed hard, bewildered by the sudden painful lump there. His heartbeat sounded thunderous in his own veins and an eerie wave of grief and regret washed over him.

NO! His internal protest echoed loudly in his head. Not fair! It's not FAIR!

Fearful that his thoughts were too clearly written on his face, Snape did the only thing he could. Habit took over and he scowled his fiercest scowl. The green eyes blinked but didn't turn away. They held. . . a question? A challenge? A hint of confusion?

To his shame, Professor Severus Snape was first to break the mutual stare and look away. He sat mute and grim, his sour expression concealing the shock that pulsed under the surface. He sat while the first-years were led away by their prefects, and while the rest of the students ambled out, chattering and laughing.

As the Hall emptied, Snape sipped his now-cold tea and fixed his eyes glumly on the table before him.

Bloody Hell! Bloody Potter – Damn the boy!. . .it wasn't fair. . .

Why did he have to have Lily's eyes?